Across the country, overall levels of vaccination are high. But pockets of low vaccination are cropping up in many parts of the country. To protect the public's health, some states are passing new laws to increase vaccination rates. In this video, Dr. Richard Pan, a California assemblyman, discusses the new strategy that his state implemented in 2014.
Dr. Richard Pan: Ultimately the goal of the bill is to try and ensure that people have accurate information in which to make decisions about vaccinations for their child and to understand its impact on the broader community. If you've seen a child essentially cough themselves to death—we had ten infants do that in the state of California during our last pertussis outbreak in 2010. When a child dies because of measles, when you see a child develop meningitis, even chicken pox, these are not diseases to be taken lightly. These are diseases that we can prevent, but we can't treat once they cause the infection. That's why prevention is so important.
In California, in order to exempt a family from having to vaccinate their children on school entry, before AB 2109 they would merely have to sign a piece of paper that says that they don't want to vaccinate their children. They don't have to give a reason. They don't have to say that someone has talked to them. They would simply just have to sign the statement, turn it in, and their child could attend the school without getting the required vaccinations.
The research we have seen indicates that many of the people who decide to exempt their children from vaccinations when they're just asked to sign the form, they are just questioning. And that when they have the opportunity to actually sit down and have a conversation with a health professional that actually many of them will get their child vaccinated.
What AB 2109 does, it says that if you are considering sending your child to school without the required vaccinations that you need to talk to a licensed healthcare professional and get counseled about the risks and benefits of vaccines and the diseases that they prevent. And if you had that counseling, you can still send your child to school without vaccination. You would simply have to have them check off that they have or sign that they have provided that counseling.
Well, public safety has always been one of the core functions of government, whether it's to protect you against crime, against natural disasters, or against disease.
We've never said that a parent should not have a right to make the decision as to what's right for their child. What we do expect is that parents should get accurate information by which to make their decisions. Parents should also recognize that they do have a responsibility not only to their own family, but to the community in which they live to help protect that community and to do their part.
AB 2109 is based on a law that was previously passed in the state of Washington to address the issue of parents exempting their children from vaccine requirements for school entry. That law in the state of Washington had shown good results in terms of reducing the rate of exemptions.
I think that what we want to do is let's see the impact of this bill. And we need to work to be sure that we have rates of immunizations that will help prevent a rapid spread of a potentially deadly disease in our communities.